Black & White
My father, Kyle M. Walker, moved here from Kingsport, Tennessee in 1947. His first job was for a magazine called North Idaho Scenic Land. His writing, photography and public relations skills then led him to the position of Manager of the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce, a job he'd have until retiring in 1971.
In those years, Dad showcased Coeur d'Alene and North Idaho around the world. He ran a booth at the Calgary Stampede almost ever year until the late 1960's, wrote, filmed and produced three 16mm movies (two narrated by Rex Allen) promoting the area and wrote countless stories in all sorts of outdoor, travel, recreation and institutional publications.
Dad passed away in 1989, but he left me with a great sense of humor, an openness to make friends and help people, a good photographer's eye and a huge sense of pride in my home town, county and state. He also left behind a lot of pictures.
My Mother, Edith B. Walker, donated well over a thousand 4x5" black and white negatives to the Museum of North Idaho after his death. I did keep stacks of magazines with his articles and a good number of 8x10 prints. Since I'm going to try my own blog, what better subject matter could I have but his photos along with my memories of living in Coeur d'Alene since I was born? So this one will kick it off, appropriate since we just had the annual 4th of July Parade.
This photo obviously shows the CHS Marching Band headed west on Sherman from 2nd to 1st Streets. I'm guessing the year was around 1950. The big building on the left was the Desert Hotel, Coeur d'Alene's own Pink Palace. Besides Templin's Motor Inn, the Desert was the biggest and nicest accommodations in town and even had a swimming pool. I took swimming lessons from Lorraine Ursaki in that pool (I was the best floater in the group, thank you).
The Desert also had two of the coolest things in town; a large meeting room with a huge mural painted by Ted Anderson depicting the Diamond Cup Hydroplane Races in front of downtown CdA, and in the basement, the Athletic Round Table with it's dim lights, colorful bar and big aquarium. Members of the ART got monthly calendars and I always remember reading the one hung by our fridge, wondering what it would be like to attend things like live music and the Friday Night Seafood extravaganzas.
My parents (mom) opened Ace Travel Agency in 1957 (more on that later) and by 1960, Ace was in the main lobby, on the left side of the main staircase, Registration being on the right. Colorful characters flowed through the Desert Hotel including an Indian man who lived there for a time. He looked like an Arabian Knight and always wore his turban and a big smile. Yup, CdA was integrated as early as that.
Under the awnings (upper center) were two offices. At the time of this photo all I can say is one was a pharmacy. In later years and among other things, on the left was the office for AM 1240 KVNI, back when it really was a local radio station. In the late 50's, the Chamber of Commerce moved from a small log cabin (located within 100 feet of the Centennial Trail Monument at Independence Point) to under the right awning. With both parents working in the same building, I literally grew up in downtown Coeur d'Alene.
Moving east is the Telephone building, now known as the Johnston Building. Yes, there really is a classic building under that black facade. Around the corner at 107 N. 2nd was where Ace Travel began. The office sat, as it does today, just a few steps below sidewalk level. One of the airline sales reps who called on Mom jokingly referred to it as the old Ace in the Hole, and still did when I saw him last some 10 years ago.
Crossing 2nd we find The Wilma Theater, home of the Saturday Matinee where us kids sat through double features of cartoons, news and B-thrillers. Creature From the Black Lagoon? Saw it. Just one of the countless reels I remember sitting through. I was the tallest kid in my gang and even though I was 11, the woman selling tickets always tried to charge me the 12 year old price, my older friends laughed as they paid less.
We'd always try to sneak up into the balcony, success being about half the time. The front row of the balcony tailed off to about 4 seats on each side that were walled behind, necker's nooks. As we got older we figured out why couples liked to sit there.
Damn shame the Wilma was left to rot, unkempt, forgotten, boarded up. We always hoped it could come back to life, like the Panida in Sandpoint has done. How wonderful to have a theater downtown. But, the owners saw it as only a piece of land and a liability at that. When the heavy snow collapsed the roof some 15 years ago, we knew it was never to be. Now it's a fenced lawn, woopie.
From there was, and is, the Eagles Lodge, bars and shops. At the time this was taken, Hudson's, aka The Missouri Lunch, was across the street with the Hudson automobile dealer and the Dream Theater, now all part of the CdA Resort Shopping Plaza.
Coeur d'Alene has grown and changed. It's not what it used to be, but I've never been anywhere I liked any better nor would I have ever wanted to grow up anywhere else on earth.
Stick around, I've got lots more photos and lots more memories.